Big names and past champions returning to the fold at Theland NZ Open Keelboat Nationals
Eleven impressive teams will take to the water this Saturday 15th & Sunday 16th May in a bid to win the 2021 Theland NZ Open Keelboat National Championship hosted by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.
An early favourite is this year’s Theland Race Team being driven by professional sailor and expert sailing analyst Chris Steele. Steele has a vast range of sailing experience to his name and has competed on the World Match Racing Tour, Extreme Sailing Series and the GC32 Racing Tour, among others. Steele had a busy summer in New Zealand commentating the America’s Cup, but is stoked to finally be able go sailing, as opposed to talking about it –
“I’m really looking forward to getting back out on the water and doing some sailing with good mates. Obviously with the pandemic a lot of our international sailing has been non-existent, so I haven’t steered a boat in over 8 months, albeit the last time I did it was a foiling catamaran! I’m sure it will be a fun weekend and I’ll really be leaning on the guys around me to try and make the boat go fast. The MRX is a fun one design class, and you can always count on close racing, it’s also looking like there will be plenty of breeze on Saturday so I’m sure there will be lots of action.”
Last year’s runner-up Harry Thurston is jumping back on the plane from Christchurch to come and have another crack at winning the title. Thurston was impressive last year in what was a large fourteen team fleet, and is looking forward to taking on the best keelboat sailors in New Zealand this weekend with his newly minted Hotel Montreal Sailing Team –
“We are very excited to line up this weekend against some of the best talent New Zealand has to offer. There are some great teams racing and we are very much looking forward to the challenge. We’ve got a new sponsor on board this year, Hotel Montreal in Christchurch, so hopefully we can get a good result for them!”
It’s not just about the boys, with two all-female teams led by Megan Thomson and Sally Garrett taking on the challenge. Thomson and Garrett both raced at the Barfoot & Thompson NZ Women’s National Keelboat Championship just two weeks ago, finishing third and fifth respectively, so both are coming into the weekend with quality recent experience racing the MRX keelboats.
2019 champion Nick Egnot-Johnson will be looking to avenge last year’s sixth place finish with a better result. Egnot-Johnson and his KNOTS Racing Team have earned themselves a tour card for this year’s World Match Racing Tour, and although it’s fleet racing this weekend, they will be happy to spend as much time on the water to build momentum before heading overseas.
Another previous champion sticking their hand up for another go is Peron Pearse. Pearse took home the honours in 2017, and although he finished in eleventh last year, you can never count out a past champion.
The remainder of the line-up includes accomplished laser sailor Thomas Saunders, RNZYS Performance Programme skipper Robbie McCutcheon, Mastercard Youth Training Programme sailor Max McLachlan, as well as Graeme Cunningham and Peter Sumich.
The breeze is looking strong with a bit of rain also forecast, setting up nicely for some competitive and spectacular racing on the track that will be set by Race Officer Ross Chapman in the Northern Leading area.
Theland, the brand of Milk New Zealand who operate as one of the largest dairy exporters nationally, are the regatta sponsor and have been loyal supporters of this event with this being the third year in the row that they have been the naming rights sponsor.
Up to eight races are scheduled for the event, with a maximum of five per day. Racing will take place on Saturday and Sunday, with the first warning signal at 0955.
Results, Race Documents, and more information can be found HERE
RNZYS PR & Communications Manager – Andrew Delves